Help your SME to ‘Go Green’

By Alex Madden

As it’s National Go Green week this week it’s only fitting that we let you know how easy it is to ‘Green your business’, especially if it can help you to save money too.

Not only can some of the tips below help you to save money, but they can also help you to differentiate yourself from the competition and stand out.

Here are a few of the great ways you can turn your SME green, save some money and help your bottom line:

  • Use LED Lighting – I’m sure you have heard this a thousand times over, but it really is such a simple thing to do. They might be pricier than other lights but it can save your business hundreds of pounds
  • Replace old appliances with newer more efficient ones – most businesses have that old clapped out printer in the corner or the fax machine no one uses anymore. Changing these to higher graded machines will save you money and will be quicker and easier to use than their predecessors
  • Encourage staff to walk/cycle or work from home – Even if it’s not possible every week to walk to work or cycle, encourage staff to do it for a day or two over the next couple of weeks. You never know they might enjoy it. If staff are able to do their days work at home, tell them to work from home one day a week, you’d be surprised how much more productive it can make people
  • Print less – We are all guilty of over printing. Whether it’s a tiny spelling mistake or printing off 17 packs of a presentation that people could just look at on the screen, we all do it. Set a challenge for your employees to go digital and not print for a whole week and see who can stick to it
  • Remove personal bins – this is something that we adopted a while ago. It’s amazing how much your attitude towards recycling changes when personal bins are taken away. It also encourages staff to get up and stretch their legs for a few minutes
  • Make sure everyone shuts off at night – When everyone has gone home, check that no machines/computer are left on standby. Can you believe the majority of office power is consumed when machines are on standby. It’s such a simple change to make and can save you money at the same time
  • Cover up – if your business uses any form of refrigeration you’ll know how costly it can be to run. An Energy Miser is designed to reduce the energy your chiller cabinets use and can quickly cut costs by up to 30%

By adhering to even a couple of the above tips you can potentially save your company hundreds of pounds each year. Make sure to tell your customers what you are doing and promote the fact that you are going green.

Source:: Help your SME to ‘Go Green’

Telling your business story

By Alex Madden

Many customers don’t buy a product anymore, they buy your into your company story which means you need to be on your toes and keep your story innovative.

All businesses need to tell a story and it’s a fantastic way to connect customers and potential customers to your brand. Telling your story means you have the opportunity to change how a customer perceives your company.

Make sure you are telling the right story

Sometimes the story you are telling might not always be the right one. Not everyone can afford an agency to get their message out there so it’s always good to work with a few guinea pigs. Test it out on customers, family and friends. Remember, these are your customers and will tell you the truth.

Give your company a human voice

Getting the right person to deliver your story is imperative to your companies brand. You need to figure out a common language before placing your spokesperson. Do you want your brand to be corporate or quirky, feminine or masculine. Have a think about what your business would be if it was a person.

Tell your story on social media

One fantastic thing about telling your story on social media is that you can have some control over what you say. It’s also a fantastic way of interacting with your customers and getting real time feedback.

A video can speak a thousand words

Don’t just rely on spoken and written word to tell your story, a video can sometimes do much better. You can get your story across in a 2-3 minute video rather than a 15 minute text and many people prefer to receive it in this way. Video can be produced quickly and cost-effectively, especially when you compare it to more traditional marketing materials such as printed brochures.

Remember to post videos on your social media pages as well, maximising your online audience and exposure.

The biggest advantages of using videos is that what you create will last for years and will get you more exposure with time.

Whether you tell your story online, through video or written, you need to remember to figure out WHY you are telling your story and be transparent. Make sure it has a clear message and call to action and keep it simple, there is nothing worse than confusing potential customers.

Like what you’ve read? Why not join us on twitter @npowerbusiness and linkedin at npower Business

Source:: Telling your business story

The simple guide to Health and Safety

By Alex Madden

‘Health and Safety’ – three words that can leave the most hardened of business owners quivering. Like most things that come with running your own enterprise, it’s more often seen as a necessary evil on top of your usual responsibilities.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Whether your employee numbers are 6 or 60, or whether you’ve been running a business for months or years, Health and Safety can be simple if you follow a few easy steps.

Understand its purpose

It’s important to understand what Health and Safety is, but also what it isn’t.

Despite common perception, it’s not a cunning ruse to waste time and money on videos, posters and basic training. More than anything it comes down to two simple objectives – protecting you, and protecting your employees.

And while this often takes the form of preventing physical injury, a safe workplace is just as much about protecting the future of your business from legal or financial pitfalls.

It’s your responsibility to look after your employees, and by doing that you’ll look after your interests at the same time.

Understand the laws

It sounds silly, but knowing what’s expected is the first part of making sure you comply.

Health and Safety assessments are made up of different facets, not all of which will apply to your business. So before you can decide which are applicable (we’ll get to this next), you need to know the laws behind them.

There are specific governances for each area, such as the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health, and each will have different requirements and implications for your business.

However they all fall under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, and this is what you need to be really familiar with. So instead wading through a pious legal document, be sure to find one of the many resources that help you get to grips with it (there’s even one at the end of this article).

Get assessing

Once you know which acts are likely to affect your business, it’s time to get assessing. As the owner it’s your responsibility to effectively identify and record hazards and risks and it’s also a good opportunity to involve employees.

Despite your overarching responsibility it’s possible to delegate Health and Safety duties to a manager or supervisor. This can offer them a chance to thrive through extra duties and allow you to see how they get on.

But whoever completes it, it’s important you finish with a comprehensive list of risks.

Write up your policy

So you’ve identified your risks, and now it’s time to detail how you’ll manage them. This is where all that reading in point two comes in handy – now you know the laws, stating how you stick to them should be a lot easier.

The key is to keep it simple. Start by noting down all the risks you’ve found and then explain how you intend to manage them. It’s also where you note who’s helping you with the responsibilities.

Share your findings

A Health and Safety policy is no good if only you and a few others know about it, so be sure to get all your staff on board. As we discussed earlier a policy is to protect you and your employees, so ensuring they know the risks and how to manage them is the most important step to prevention.

Hold a session to introduce your new policy and follow this up with regular ‘refreshers’ to make sure everyone remembers. Aid this with clear posters and signs highlighting risks around the workplace, and you’ll be able to make it part of the culture as opposed to a chore.

And of course, regularly check and re-evaluate your policy. If your workplace changes, it should too.

Top up your knowledge

There are plenty of places to find assistance should you need it, but Health and Safety Executive is both a sound starting point and a good place to keep on top of your knowledge.

And for more hints and tips, here are some of the best resources available:

Source:: The simple guide to Health and Safety

The pros and cons of being a landlord

By Alex Madden

There are certainly many pros to being a landlord, for one there is a huge demand for rental properties. Only last year there were 7.9 million residential properties being rented in the UK. Many people think becoming a landlord means getting a lot of money for not doing very much but that’s not strictly true.

Being a landlord can be time-consuming and complicated with all of the obligations and legalities and it’s not always for everyone. There are many pros and cons to being a landlord and below are just a few:

PROS

  • Low risk investment – return on property/land is fairly steady. Stock values can fall but land won’t do a disappearing act on you
  • Income – this is the main reason many people consider becoming a landlord. With tenants who pay the rent on time, this can bring you a steady stream of income and enough to pay the mortgage. This allows you to hold on to the property while it gains value
  • Tax deductions – all rent a landlord receives is taxable and the mortgages tend to be a higher rate than others, however so this doesn’t discourage people to become landlords, there are a few tax deductions available: Replacing damaged furniture, replacing water pipes, cleaning, gardening, insurance, repainting, interest on the mortgage, water rates, Council Tax, gas and electricity

CONS

  • Financial cost to you – becoming a landlord can also see you having to part with sometimes a large amount of money on such things as: Gas Safety Certificate, tax on rent, Energy Efficiency certificate, repairs and maintenance, potential letting agency fees, landlord insurance and tenancy deposit scheme
  • Time – when a tenant leaves your property they may not leave it in a state to be able to rent it out straight away. This will cost you time and money. Not only will you have to pay for any work to be done, you will have to pay the mortgage yourself during this time and also spend your own time getting builders and decorators in. It might mean you can keep the previous tenants deposit, but depending on what work needs to be done, it may not cover it
  • Dealing with problem tenants – the majority of tenants will pay rent and treat the property as their own, but it’s inevitable that you will get a problem tenant down the line. Make sure you are savvy with tenancy laws and eviction rights and be prepared to use them

The lists of both pros and cons can go on and on however don’t let them daunt you too much. There is loads of help and support around for landlords if you look. Whether you are a landlord of one house or own business sites around the country you can get help and advice. The National Landlord Association has advice and memberships to help protect landlords, your insurance provider can help you choose the best insurance for the property and even your energy provider can help by giving you advice on how to make the property more energy efficient.

For more advice on energy efficiency for your property, visit – http://www.npower.com/business/

Source:: The pros and cons of being a landlord

What kind of business planner are you?

By Cassie Oliver

Poor planning could result in Britain’s small businesses losing out on £25 billion this year*. And with most small and medium sized enterprises failing before their fifth year, this is money they sorely need.

Clearly, planning matters. 70% of businesses reckon they’ll grow as a direct result of developing and implementing a current business plan*.

And one of the best ways to plan for success is to understand what type of planner you are. So which one sounds like you?

The post-it planner

Post-it planners are great at making spontaneous gut decisions. They don’t like to mull things over for too long, and hate poring over spreadsheets – they’d rather scribble their thoughts down on scraps of paper.

If you’re a post-it planner

Set up a structure from the very beginning. Take the time to create some key templates that you can turn to in the future – they’ll help you to stay on top of things, which will pay dividends in the long run.

The mini-planner

Mini-planners are modern – they don’t use paper for anything. They type everything in bite-size chunks on the go. They’re focused on constantly updating and improving their business plan, and want to use every precious moment of their busy days for developing new ideas.

If you’re a mini-planner

Although micro task management is great for staying on top of things, don’t forget to make time to understand how your business is performing at a wider level. Try delegating tasks to colleagues to free up your time – chances are, they’re looking for the opportunity to step up and impress you.

The detail addict

Detail addicts are – unsurprisingly – addicted to details. Nothing, no matter how small, can be overlooked. Every possibility must be thought about, every contingency planned for. They can be cautious to a fault, weighing every decision against every possible outcome.

If you’re a detail addict

When it comes to planning ahead, knowing your business inside out is a great place to start. But try to avoid using research to procrastinate – adding more data into the mix can be overwhelming and unhelpful.

The presentation planner

Presentation planners only feel truly secure once they’ve shown a formal presentation of their business plan to as many experts and financial backers as they can. After this, they update their formal presentation once a month, keeping everyone up to date.

If you’re a presentation planner

So you’re great at planning and regular formal reviews. But if you’re taking a long time to add the polish, try a more agile approach by sharing your work earlier. Bringing people in earlier in the process can help them understand your thinking (and make them more receptive to your final decision).

However you plan best, here’s some expert advice:

Need help on how to create a marketing plan? We’ve got you covered.

*Source: npower/OnePoll Business Planning Research survey September 2015

Source:: What kind of business planner are you?

Trade Shows – Our Top Tips

By Cassie Oliver

There are hundreds of trade shows taking place in the UK every week focused on every industry and business need. Each event represents a significant sales opportunity for businesses; in fact a surprising 29% of buyers only buy at trade events[1].

Although the initial outlay to promote your company at an exhibition or trade show can take a large chunk of a small business marketing budget, events like these are an ideal platform for a small business to get in front of potential customers, as you can meet buyers and decision makers face to face and on your own terms. It actually costs 22% less to contact a potential buyer at a show than through traditional field sales calls[2], so these events definitely deserve a place in your marketing plan.

Here we share some pointers on how to choose which events to go to, get the best value for your spend, and maximise your return on investment.

  1. Be Selective – Research each event you’re considering, and compare them against each other to choose the one with the best potential.
  • How many people attend?
  • Are they potential customers for your business?
  • Do your competitors attend, and if so would that put you off?
  • Is the event good value for money compared to others?
  • What’s included in the stand package?
  • How do the additional costs compare?
  • Are speaking/seminar slots available, and do you have to pay for them?
  1. Negotiate

Event companies are in the same position as everyone else in that they need to make sales. Find out which points they can be flexible on, and negotiate these; for example:

  • Size of stand
  • Location of stand
  • Price of package
  • Extras they can throw in – e.g. a seminar slot or enhanced directory listing

**TOP TIP: Befriend event organisers and let them know you can be available to replace companies who drop out at the last minute – either for stand space or a speaker slot. It’s a long shot, but by saving them a headache of trying to find a replacement you may bag a bargain deal.**

  1. Preparation

In the run-up to an exhibition there are various decisions to make and things you’ll need to get ready. Lots of these you can do yourself to save money, but others you’ll need to get from suppliers or the organisers, so you need to factor timescales in when you plan and order things.

You’ll need to decide about:

  • Stand Location: Corner stands, near the café, outside the room where the keynote speeches and seminars will be taking place…wherever there will be the most footfall.
  • Furniture – chairs? A table for a laptop? Don’t overcrowd your stand, there needs to be room for people!
  • AV Equipment/Projector – are there images or videos you want to show?
  • Internet access – do you really need it?
  • Power – probably an essential
  • Lighting – not completely essential, but your stand will look much better with than without
  • Backing material (see backdrop point below)
  • Flooring

Be careful to read the notes and guidance from the organisers, as each event is different and there are certain rules to follow and deadlines you’ll need to meet to make sure everything happens on time. In some cases you’ll be charged extra for placing orders after the cut-off point, while at some events you can’t order at all after the deadline, so be aware.

Organisers do make the most of their captive audience to upsell all sorts of things from permission to broadcast audio to flowers and at-stand catering, so don’t get carried away or before you know it you could be footing the bill for an expensive (albeit luxurious!) stand package. Do some research well in advance of what you can provide yourself and whether it is cost-effective to do so once you have factored in other costs such as transportation and fitting.

  • Print/Promotional items – estimating how much you’ll need is a fine art.
  • Selection/Recruitment of staff to man the stand – who will give the best impression?
  • Training – prepare staff for the event, explain targets and incentives, etc.
  • Breakdown plan – make sure everyone helps pack up before they disappear to the pub or to get their train. Make arrangements to transport everything back to your office or storage.
  • Follow-up – contacting and nurturing the leads is critical to maximising ROI.
  • Measuring performance – calculating revenue achieved as well as other metrics.

  1. Promotion

Once your stand is booked, and you’ve ordered any print and equipment you need, you can turn your attention to making sure everyone knows you are going to the event. This is especially important if you have a speaking slot, as you want to make sure there are plenty of bums on seats at your session!

Mention it on your website ­– if you can, update your homepage with an announcement. Promo panels or sliders are ideal for this.

Blog about it – A blog post pre and post event is a great positive news story to share with your readers.

Tell your customers – include an update in newsletters, get your Sales team to mention it in calls and meetings, add it to your email footer… there are plenty of ways to let your existing customers know you are going to an event. Why not send a separate message to invite them to go along?

Social Media – Share your blog post and updates from the organisers across your Social Media channels to create a buzz of anticipation. Most events will have their own hashtag, and this is a good way to find out who else is going, as well as reach out to prospects before the day itself. Make sure you take photos and video while you’re there, and share these to increase engagement.

  1. Your Stand

Make it inviting

  • Remember, less is more. Bells and whistles won’t win you clients. We’ve seen buyers run the other way from a stand with pumping music, an 8ft high inflatable man, go-go dancers and a remote-controlled blimp (true story!).
  • Offering visitors free drinks and a place to sit down and take a breather always go down well.

Backdrops

The walls of your stand are an ideal place to put information about your products or services, and there are various ways to present this. Here are some ideas:

  • Place banner stands or pop-up displays in front of the stand walls – you’ll lose more space, but the information will be presented exactly as you want it, and will look very professional.
  • Print information directly onto stand panels – looks professional and will save space, but is costly to produce/update.
  • Fix A3/A2 posters to Velcro backing with Velcro dots – cheap and effective, easy to update/refresh

Moving visuals

Videos, presentations – any moving imagery will catch the eye of passing visitors and entice them towards your stand to find out more.

If you don’t have any videos, you can create a presentation with simple statements, questions and quotes to catch people’s attention and draw them in to find out more. Set it up to run by itself, and you’ve got a cut-price version that you can easily update and tailor to each event.

Giveaways

  • Give visitors something they’ll use, ideally closely related to your line of work.
  • Pens (although not original) go everywhere, and keep your brand front of mind.
  • Any sweets or other food you give people should be wrapped.
  1. On the day

Have clear objectives

  • Sale on the spot
  • Book appointment (demo, consultation, etc.)
  • Obtain contact details
  • Ask for an introduction

Keep your team happy

  • Being on your feet and talking all day is tiring, so make sure everyone gets the chance for a regular break.
  • Supply them with plenty of water and coffee/tea to keep the energy levels up.
  • Motivate them with a little bit of healthy competition, e.g. introduce a prize for the person who signs up the most customers/books the most appointments.

With careful planning and the right team on board, exhibitions can be a major source of revenue for your business. Good luck, and let us know how you get on!

Like what you’ve read? Why not join us on twitter @npowerbusiness and linkedin at npower Business

[1] Association of Exhibition Organisers (AEO)

[2] Centre for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR)

Source:: Trade Shows – Our Top Tips

Staff Retention – looking after your employees

By Cassie Oliver

Many SMEs experience a high level of staff turnover, and it can be hard to keep good people in your business when other larger, more established companies are in a position to make them an offer they can’t refuse. So how can you make staff want to stay with you for the long term?

Money is the most obvious motivating factor, but that alone won’t keep people working for you year after year. Many successful businesses have comprehensive employee reward schemes that are costly to set up and maintain, and these will make all the difference, but for SMEs the answers can actually be a lot more simple. If you remember these 3 keys points you won’t go far wrong:

Deliver on Promises

  • Prioritise regular reviews and 1-2-1s so that your employees see how important their career development is to you.
  • Keep everyone in your business informed about developments. If things are looking bleak, they may have ideas that will help turn your business around. If things are going well, let them share in the success.
  • Make expectations clear, so everyone knows what they need to do.
  • Show progress towards milestones and targets, so each member of staff feels involved and encouraged to make a contribution.

Show you care

  • Find out what makes each individual member of your team tick. Are they introvert or extrovert? What do they enjoy doing in their spare time?
  • When you notice something good, thank the person responsible immediately and publicly. Recognition like this is priceless, and it’s important that you praise staff in public.
  • Reward long serviceCertificates for people who’ve been with you for 5 or 10 years are a nice touch, and lots of long-serving employees will proudly display these on their desks. Other options to consider are extra days of holiday, one-off bonuses or gifts. Why not let them choose?
  • Celebrate birthdays, marriages and births – just a small gesture like a card signed by everyone in the team is so nice to receive, and makes staff feel valued.

Give a bit extra

Keeping staff happy doesn’t have to break the bank! Here are some ideas of perks and rewards that will keep staff in any small business smiling:

  • Free Fruit – looking after health and wellbeing as well as appetites.
  • Weekly treat – you can celebrate with milkshakes on Friday, buy everyone a midweek coffee, or make Monday more bearable with a chocolate bar each.
  • Free tea and coffee – many small businesses offer employees free drinks while at work.
  • Team meal out – treat staff to lunch or dinner, it’s a good chance to catch-up out of the office.
  • Bring-your-own buffet – in the USA it’s a Pot Luck, in Yorkshire it’s a fuddle. Whatever you call it, it’s good to share.
  • Activities: a cinema trip, ice skating or go retro with laser tag or bowling – nothing builds a team like an occasional activity, the more competitive the better!
  • Free Parking – pay for someone’s parking for the week, or give them a priority space in your own car park.

What has worked for you? Tell us about the perks you offer people in your business.

Like what you’ve read? Why not join us on twitter @npowerbusiness and linkedin at npower Business

Source:: Staff Retention – looking after your employees

Business benefits of supporting a charity

By Alex Madden

npower and Macmillan cake off

Nowadays you expect large businesses to support a charity, whether they sponsor a charity for the year, or they get involved with the community.

CSR isn’t as important to SMEs but smaller and smaller companies seem to be getting involved in charitable activity – especially when cash is tight.

Tae a look at the tips below on how your SME can create a charity partnership:

  • Choose the right cause

To make sure the partnership is the most effective it can be, you need to make sure you choose the right charity for your business. For example a business that sells toys, may choose to support a children’s charity. You also need to make sure the charity is relevant to the community in which you have a presence.

  • Get employees to take part in a group fundraiser

Whether it’s running, walking, litter picking in a local park or throwing pies at the boss, group fundraising is always a great team building exercise and it’s helping a charity at the same time.

  • Adding optional donation pages to your website

Give your customers the chance to give something back and donate an amount to a local charity every time a customer spends over a certain amount on your website. Set the donation amount to a manageable one that won’t see profit loss.

As well as creating team morale and raising vital funds for a charity, partnerships can also help SMEs in different ways.

  • Let local newspapers know about what you’re doing and send them pictures of any fundraising activities. This is free promotion for your business
  • Charity partnerships can help show customers that your business is trustworthy and ethical
  • Giving employees a chance to give back can not only help with morale, it can also help staff retention by making employees proud to work for your company

Choosing to partner with a charity can also help with marketing your business. Sponsoring a local football team or charity event can get your business name out there. So instead of paying for advertising in local papers, use the money to make a difference to your local community.

Local charities are likely to be more than happy to work with any small business interested in sponsoring an event or setting up a regular payroll deduction program for its workers.

npower has been a charity partner with Macmillan Cancer Support for the last 11 years and to date has raised over £11million for the charity and helped over 3,000 affected by cancer.

We also choose to support local charities at each of our sites and this year have taken part in events such as a sponsored bike ride, bake offs and a charity 5-a-side rugby match.

Source:: Business benefits of supporting a charity

#mybizplan – Phil Scholes talks SME business planning

By Cassie Oliver

Phil header banner

Phil Scholes is Head of SME Sales & Marketing at npower Business, and has over 20 years’ experience of sales and customer service in the utilities industry.

At npower Business, we are committed to helping SMEs to succeed so that their businesses can grow and prosper.

We know that as a necessary overhead, energy is one of the most significant costs for businesses to consider, so with this in mind, we’ve launched the #mybizplan campaign to support SME customers in planning their energy spend as part of their main business plan.

To highlight the importance of planning to any kind of business, we’ve undertaken some research, the findings of which have been really interesting. Certainty is key when it comes to planning and with this campaign we want to initiate a wider conversation around SMEs and business planning.

One surprising statistic that came out of our research is that as many as
42% of UK businesses don’t have any kind of business plan at all
– this combined with the economic uncertainty SMEs have been faced with over the last few years make for a precarious future for lots of UK businesses.

SME owners put their heart and soul into setting up businesses and working to make them successful, so if they fail, the effects can be devastating both financially and personally. If effective planning can spare some entrepreneurs that pain, and help them prepare for and recover from tough times, then it’s something every SME needs to be doing.

I gave a series of radio interviews last week discussing the value of business planning, and this campaign has featured in the media – we’re going all out to spread the word about how important it is for businesses to plan, however they choose to do it. For some business owners it’s enough to write a few words on a Post-it, but others prefer a more comprehensive formal presentation that gets regularly updated.

You can get involved by taking our online interactive quiz to find out what type of planner you are – www.mybizplan.co.uk
Share your results on Twitter using the #mybizplan hashtag, and join the conversation on LinkedIn too.

Like what you’ve read?
Follow us on twitter @npowerbusiness or LinkedIn at npower Business for more useful business tips.

Source:: #mybizplan – Phil Scholes talks SME business planning

How much do SMEs plan? And how important is it?

By Alex Madden

How much do SMEs plan? And how important is it?

npower Business #mybizplan research highlights SME planning habits

One in ten British small businesses are putting their financial survival on the line – by failing to follow even the simplest business plan.

We recently commissioned some independent research from One Poll which revealed that many small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) rely on just a few lines scribbled onto a Post-it® note as their only form of long-term financial planning.

The research, which involved 1000-key decision makers from SMEs, found that ad-hoc business projections are often jotted down at the time the company is formed when seeking initial finance, then never looked at nor added to again.

“Post-it note planning” is the favoured option of a third of all hospitality and events companies, with thousands of fast food outlets, cafes, bars and nightclubs reliant on planning on the hoof. A quarter of all transport and logistics SMEs also rely on improvised plans.

The research found that some 15% of retailers on Britain’s high streets also jot their plans down on a Post-it. While 88% of Britain’s retailers think it is useful for a company to have a business plan in place to support growth, just half have created one to support their company as it evolves.

These alarming statistics come at a time when many small firms are struggling to achieve significant growth – finding it increasingly hard to secure new funding from traditional high street lenders.

While post-it planning companies are the most disorganised and favoured by just 9% of British companies, three other categories of business planning emerged from the research: “Mini-planners” who prefer to draft bite-sized plans on smartphones and tablets (24%) ; “Detail addicts”, 50%, who see the value in producing a detailed, full-scale plan drilling down through the costings. Finally there are a further 17% of “Presentation planners” who only feel secure when they have drawn up a formal, visually pleasing presentation before they start trading.

Last year saw a record 581,000 businesses start up, according to Companies House with over a third of small business owners (36%) realising that running a company was harder than expected within the first month of operating. Managing cash flow and accurate forecasting were the areas of most concern.

‘Our aim is to raise awareness of just how important having a proper business plan in place and working to it actually is. Clearly it has to be flexible, but there has to be some properly thought-through structure.

Phil Scholes, Head of SME Sales & Marketing at npower Business explains the reason for the campaign:

‘We want to encourage small businesses to factor in accurate energy costs when they are tackling their business planning. From fixed tariffs to free-of-charge smart meters to advice from our own energy experts, there are a number of options available which eliminate the need to guess-timate predicted energy outlay. Small businesses are the lifeblood of this country and assistance with better and more accurate planning can only benefit the wider economy.’

Business planning types

Post-it planners: Confident with self-belief which has often paid dividends in past ventures. Spontaneous and likes making quick decisions, often going with a good “gut feeling” rather than any more definite in terms of future prospects of success. Doesn’t like thinking about things for too long and can’t standing sitting down to fill in columns of figures, preferring to pop a few key phrases of motivation down on a post-it or scrap of paper.

Mini-planners: Modern, young innovator who doesn’t use paper for anything these days. Everything is typed in bite-sized chunks on the go during the day, stored on mobile devices for quick access. Constantly updating the plan is key to the mind of the mini-planner, and the ability to utilise every moment of the day usefully to develop ideas is essential.

Detail addicts: No detail, no matter how small can be overlooked for the detail addict planner. Every possibility has to be drilled down to its lowest level, and every contingency planned for. Cautious to a fault, decisions are made only when every possible outcome has been considered, and spreadsheets are the detail addict’s best friend.

Presentation planners: Only feels secure when a formal presentation of the business plan has been created and shown to financial backers and as many experts as possible. Giving a formal presentation helps to make the final decision about whether or not to go ahead with the new business venture. This presentation is updated on a monthly basis, and backers are brought in to be kept up to date.

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Source:: How much do SMEs plan? And how important is it?